Monday, December 6, 2010

After-School Program

In order to reduce after-school violence, I have been appointed to put together a physical activity program that will give the students something to do after school until their parents get off work.  Not only will the program keep the teens occupied to reduce violence, it will aim to develop character to prevent violence in all social situations. 
So What:  
After school programs and sports can benefit students in a variety of ways.  Fraser-Thomas, Cote, and Deakin (2005) state that sports benefit youth in four main ways: physical development, psychological and emotional development, social development, and intellectual development. As these alone are beneficial and could reduce violence, according to Gill and Williams (2008) the higher the moral reasoning is in an individual, the less likely they are to be aggressive.  Based on this information, the after school program may reduce violence because it gives the children something to do after school, but outside of that violence may still exist.  If a reduction in violence is desired in all social situations, it is vital for me to implement a program that teaches moral reasoning to the teens. 

According to instinct theory and initial drive theories, aggression is basically inevitable and violence is a way of reducing frustration. Since frustration does not always result in violence, many people look towards social learning theories to help explain why aggression exists. Social learning theories argue that all behaviors are learned through observations and the likelihood of the behavior occurring again is based on whether or not the behavior was reinforced.  If this is true, it will be vital to teach the teens proper ways of dealing with their frustrations.  Many people believe that contact sports are ways to blow off steam and relieve their anger, thus making people less likely to exhibit aggressive behavior.  Research shows the opposite in that observation and participation in contact sports actually increases the probability of aggressive behavior (Gill and Williams, 2008).  This makes sport the ideal environment for teaching youth how to deal with frustration and anger, along with other important life skills. 

Now What:  
One problem I see with the after school program is that many of the at-risk children may not show any interest to staying after school to participate.  If I create a program with no input from the teens themselves there is a good chance they may have no desire to show up.  However, if I work with the teens from the very beginning and implement their ideas for activities and events I think they will show much more interest and enthusiasm towards the program.  As cited in Gill and Williams (2008), Hellison (1995) created a “personal-social responsibility model” that stresses the importance of integrating the teaching of life skills in with the physical activity.  This is something I will also implement in my program, and I will make it clear to the students from the very beginning that the purpose of the program is to not only have fun, but to learn ways to manage frustrations and deal with anger.  According to Gill and Williams (2008), research on programs like this are promising as participants “demonstrated greater respect and feelings for others… self-control, effort, self-esteem and other positive social and personal characteristics outside of the physical activity setting are possible” (p. 238).

Teaching life skills is something that many successful coaches already do on a day to day basis.  Gould et al. (2007) interviewed ten top coaches and identified various attributes they include in their coaching style. One of these included teaching positive skills and values in which players learn to ignore trash talking and taunting.  Teaching the students values and appropriate behaviors when they arise in competition is one thing, but getting them to translate this into real life situation is another.  I think it would be valuable to inform the children’s parents and teachers the goal of the program and encourage them to also teach the teens appropriate behaviors when possible. 

In order to best reduce violence in this school, I will have the at-risk students assist me in designing the program in hopes that they will be more interested in participating in the program.  Research shows that both after-school programs and sports help youth develop both physically and emotionally.  The program that I will design will attempt to teach these teens to have greater moral reasoning and better emotional control, something they will learn through sports and exercise. 

Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Gould, D., Collins, K., Lauer, L., Chung, Y. (2007). Coaching life skills through football: A study of award winning high school coaches. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 19, 16-37.
Fraser-Thomas, J. L., Cote, J., & Deakin, J. (2005). Youth sport programs: An avenue to foster positive youth development. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 10, 19-40.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Inclusion For All

As a physical education teacher in a public school, it is up to me to promote the health and well-being of my students by being culturally competent and creating a class that is both inclusive and empowering.  In order to do so I will increase multicultural competencies among myself and my students by working with fellow teachers and by creating a class atmosphere that accommodates and accepts all people. 

So What:  
Multicultural competence, as defined by Gill and Williams (2008), “refers to the ability to work effectively with people who are of a different culture… (and) are essential for anyone working with others, and certainly in all professional kinesiology roles” (p. 284).  Seeing as virtually all public schools have at least some level of multicultural diversity it is vital to establish multicultural competence to benefit ALL children from both a moral and developmental standpoint.  Negative stereotypes affect the minority group the most and according to Gill and Williams (2008) simple manipulations (such as telling a student that a test does not show race differences) can alleviate the stereotype threat.  Stereotypes can include: gender, sexual preference, physical attractiveness, race, ethnicity, disability, religion, physicality, among others.  A physical education class should be structured to benefit all children regardless of any of the previously mentioned physical and personal attributes; therefore it is important to create an atmosphere that tolerates all people.

Now What:  
I believe the most important factor in creating a multicultural competent atmosphere is to not limit the atmosphere to just the PE class.  Gill and Williams (2008) mention that 75% of teachers witness homophobic behaviors in their classroom and more than 50% of those teachers do not confront the behavior.  The teachers may ignore the behavior because the rest of the society, and most likely the rest of the teachers, will continue to reinforce homophobic behaviors because they have are widely accepted and have become the norm.  As a PE teacher, if I do everything in my power to create a classroom where the children accept multicultural differences, and they go to their next class where this is not the case, every bit of work I have done has been debunked.  In my classroom I will make it a certain point not only to treat all children fairly, I will continuously address situations where children may be singled out, and will make an effort to confront students who don’t treat others fairly.  Cultural competency needs to be a school-wide effort in order to truly be effective.  According to the APA Multicultural Guidelines (2002) multicultural education may help to counteract stereotyping that may lead to prejudices towards minorities.  Based on this I think it would be important to educate not only the students, but also parents and teachers on the detrimental effects of stereotyping.  Hopefully, this will encourage both educators and families to also create multicultural competent atmospheres so that what I encourage will not be cancelled out by others. 

Gill and Williams (2008) discuss the controversial area of “stacking.”  Stacking refers to when white athletes are put in the power position and hold a central role in controlling where minority positions will be.  One way to eliminate this from ever happening would be to either let the children decide what positions they want to play in team games, or to randomly assign positions if they are unable to come to a decide on their own..  Stacking is most common in organized sports and could easily happen in PE, but if a PE teacher is aware of it, stacking should be something easy to control. 

Including children with disabilities would be an extremely difficult task to take on, especially in those severely disabled.  Gill and Williams (2008) mention that “people with physical disabilities are one of the most inactive segments of the populations” (p. 282).  Craft (1994) discusses the inclusion of children with disabilities and she brings up several important approaches.  Craft makes a special point that children with disabilities should in fact be included in PE classes.  Being in constant contact with special education specialists, occupational and physical therapists, as well as other professionals in the field is very useful as they can provide the necessary consultation needed to allow children with special needs to get the most out of the class.  Each individual child will most likely need individual changes in the curriculum, so appropriate consultation is important in order to not only challenge the child to develop and put forth effort, but to also have fun and be included.

As a physical educator it is important to promote health and well-being to all students equally, and important part of that is making sure the children know they are all equals, even if their athletic ability is far from similar.  To increase cultural competence in the children it is not only important for me to set a good example, but for the entire faculty and parents to reinforce that good example.  Equality can be established in team games by randomly assigning positions and teams, which would also avoid stacking.  As for children with any form of physical or mental disability it is vital to communicate with professionals in the field in order to provide the least restrictive environment for the child so they can be challenged and have fun.

American Psychological Association (APA). (2003). Guidelines on multicultural educations, training, research, practice, and organizational change for psychologists. American Psychologist, 58, 377-402.
Craft, H. (1994).  Implications of inclusion for physical education.  The Journal of Physical Education, Recreations, and Dance, 65, 54-55.
Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Monday, November 15, 2010

7th Grade Cohesiveness

Case 1: 
As a seventh grade PE teacher I am trying to use team building with my diverse group of students.  Gill and Williams (2008) offer two main definitions for “team building” that are commonly used today.  The first definition states “team building is a method of helping the group to increase effectiveness, satisfy the needs of its members, or improve work conditions” and the second states “Team building can be characterized as ‘team enhancement’ for both task and social purposes” (Gill and Williams, p. 261).  Both definitions imply that team building exercises are vital to maximize the amount of productivity within the group (possibly by reducing social loafing) and to build relationships among the members of the group.  In relation to my seventh grade PE students, team building could be an incredibly effective way to both get the children to be actively engaged in exercise, and also to strengthen relationships between the peers. 

            The main objective of team building exercises is to enhance group cohesiveness in order to increase group effectiveness.  Senecal, Loughead & Bloom (2008) performed a study with 86 female high school basketball players and showed that teams that participated in team building interventions had higher levels of team cohesiveness than did the control teams.  If high group cohesiveness actually leads to increased group effectiveness, then group cohesiveness is clearly what I would need to focus on as a PE teacher. The first part of the program would be for me, the educator, to identify a problem or set a goal for the class as a whole.  I feel that one important problem that faces many PE classes in our country today is the lack of engagement and lack of activity that actually goes on during a PE class.  Students tend to spend much of the class standing around, not being engaged in the activity.  I would make it clear to my students at the beginning of the intervention that the ultimate goal is to increase overall activity (while still having just as much fun). 

I would first start by splitting up the classroom into several groups.  Each group would have the same task, and each group would be working towards an overall classroom goal.  This way groups could be competing against each other but still be unified by the same common goal.  It is important for the groups to not be too big for several reasons.  Gill and Williams (2008) discuss social loafing and mention that when people work in smaller groups social loafing tends to decrease.  If the children are in smaller groups they will feel as if they are being individually evaluated and put forth more effort.  The children should also feel more comfortable performing a task (sit up or push up) in a small group as opposed to in a large group.  Not only will the children feel like they are being more closely evaluated, small groups will indeed make it easier for me to evaluate the individuals and teams better.

Splitting up the teams evenly in terms of diversity (race, ability, gender, etc) will be important to keep things even.  Each team should have a designated leader as well as other defined roles within the group.  The roles will be clear to each group member and they will be held accountable for what the contribute to the group.  I will encourage the students to help others in the group in order to best benefit the group as a whole.  There is a lot that peers can teach each other, especially if the group is diverse.  Assisting and teaching other members of the group will not only increase performance, but it will strengthen relationships within the team.  Each team can have different colored shirts in order to distinguish one group from another.  Explain the importance of exercise to the class as a whole to hopefully increase intrinsic motivation, but also some form of reward for the groups that do the best could also be beneficial (cut in line at lunch pass, “jean day” if school has dress code, etc.).  If he students enjoy these team building exercises, it may be very beneficial to repeat them throughout the year.  Each time assign the students to different groups so they have the chance to meet and work with new people. 

According to Gill and Williams (2008) research has shown that team building interventions increase group effectiveness by enhancing group cohesiveness.  My 7th grade PE class is to take part in a team building exercise that is aimed to do just that; enhance group cohesiveness to increase the amount of activity and engagement during a PE class.  The groups will be split up by me and each group will have similar levels of ability and diversity.  Each group will have defined roles, be encouraged to assist other group members when possible, and the small groups will allow me to effectively evaluate group and individual performance. 

Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Senecal, J., Loughead, T., & Bloom, G. (2008). A season-long team-building intervention: Examining the effect of team goal setting on cohesion. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 30(2), 186-199.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Families Together Program

What:  Gill and Williams (2008) mention that physical inactivity can lead to an array of health problems including: Heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, etc.  The Families Together and Active program I am to develop is targeted towards increasing family memberships.  This program will address physical inactivity and increase positive attitudes towards physical activity by getting families to utilize social influence, resulting in a much healthier lifestyle.

So What:  As Gill and Williams (2008) discussed in chapter 10, physical inactivity is a serious issue around the world.  Early research performed by Triplett (1898) found evidence that the presence of others increased performance on timed tasks.  This lead to a great amount of research on social facilitation, but little of it was applicable to real world situations.  Social facilitation was most beneficial as it lead to extensive research in social influence, and many important phenomenon’s were discovered, some of which include: competition increases arousal which is shown  to increase reaction times and speed in certain tasks, cooperative learning environments lead to achievements and greater productivity than does individualistic efforts, cooperative efforts leads to higher self-esteem, observational learning via modeling is most noticeable in sport and exercise as it provides information about how to perform motor skills, having significant others present can affect people’s self-perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, positive peer relationships are associated with higher perceived competence, enjoyment, and sport commitments, and socially supportive instructors can lead to a variety of positive effects in exercise classes. Knowing all of this, if families join The Families Together program they will provide their own source of social influence and strive together.

Now What:  The first part of the plan is to advertise the program.  Based on the Recommendations to Increase Physical Activity in Communities, by the Task Force on Community Preventive Services (2002), I believe that Community-Wide campaigns would be the most effective strategy because ads can be targeted specifically to the members of the community.  Newspaper ads as well as television and radio commercials could be used to explain what The Families Together program is, and why it can benefit all ages. 

Before parents are expected to join I would first introduce them to the program and further explain the purpose and benefits of the program.  The following are some of the things I would educate and inform them of.  According to Fredricks and Eccles (2004) research shows that active parents have active children so it is important for parents to be a positive model for their children. Fredricks and Eccles (2004) mention that “parents who play sports on any level provide a model for their children and help normalize involvement in athletics” (p. 150).  Seeing as the program is for a park and recreation department, a wide variety of activities can be used to facilitate self-efficacy, modeling, self-observation, self-perceptions, etc. to increase participation and overall enjoyment.  My program would incorporate activities for children only, children and parents together, and parents and adults only. Seeing as competition is a form of cooperative effort which leads to higher achievement and greater productivity than individualistic efforts, competition will be available in many different forms.  The children activities would consist of team games and leagues (football, baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball etc).  These leagues would facilitate competition, peer relationships, modeling, etc.  The activities that include both parents and children could include parent-children swim classes, biking classes, walking clubs, as well as a variety of tournaments and games to get the whole family involved.  Gill and Williams (2008) mention that parents’ belief and value systems influences their children’s belief and value system.  Getting parents and children to participate in physical activity together would be a perfect way for parents to show their children that they value exercise.  If parents want time to exercise alone, I would have a dare-care facility available for parents to take their children to so they don’t have to worry about their children while exercising.  The parents can then take part in exercise classes, as well as adult sport leagues (volleyball, softball, etc). 

In order for families to get the most bang for their buck, competent and effective instructors are a key.  As Gill and Williams (2008) discuss, having effective and socially supportive instructors in exercise classes is beneficial in many ways including: Greater exercise self-efficacy, more energy and enthusiasm, less postexercise fatigue, more enjoyment, etc.  As for children, Gill and Williams (2008) note that having significant others present (parents) can increase a person’s self-perception, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.  But Fredricks and Eccles (2004) note that over-involvement of parents and high pressure from parents can result in negative child outcomes. It would be important for the program to stress parental encouragement towards their children, and not over-involvement.  

Conclusion:  The Families Together program utilizes social influence in order to get people of all ages to become more physically active.  The program in set up for families to participate in activities together, as well as opportunities for adults and children to participate with their own peer group.  Social influence has been shown to increase self-efficacy, self-perceptions, and increase attitudes towards physical activity, so it is important that families join and participate together. 

Fredricks, J. A., & Eccles, J. S. (2004). Parental Influences on youth involvement in sports. In M. R.Weiss (Ed.), Developmental sport and exercise psychology: A lifespan perspective (pp. 145-164). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Task Force on Community Preventative Services. (2002). Recommendations to increase physicalactivity in communities. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 22 (4S). 67-72.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fighting Childhood Obesity

What:  As the number of overweight adolescents grows, the need for intervention becomes more and more vital.  I work at a school that has been approved to create an afterschool program for overweight middle school students in order to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.  I am to come up with an action plan and present it to school officials and parent-teacher groups, while highlighting my approach, strategies and activities. It is important for these children to understand the importance of including exercise in their daily lives and changes in behavior need to happen quickly and effectively while they are still young.

So What:  The benefits of physical exercise on a regular basis are something we have all heard about.  According to Gill and Williams (2008) “physical inactivity has been linked to nearly all major health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and negative psychological conditions such as depress and anxiety” and at least 25% of the world does not exercise at all. (p. 148). Knowing this, it’s hard to imagine that people don’t exercise more.  I am just as guilty as the other 60% of the world’s population in that I don’t get the recommended 30 minutes per day on a consistent basis.  Some days I don’t have the time, while other days I simply don’t have the motivation.  Whatever the case may be, it’s important that the children of today don’t fall into the same habits the rest of society has.  Granted, children don’t have ideal behaviors modeled for them.  That just makes it that much more important to intervene quickly so they don’t fall into the same life-style so many people before them have. 

Now What:  There are countless approaches that could be used to try to get overweight children to start exercising.  In this program, I wouldn’t want to single out only the overweight children.  I would start by showing all children in the middle school some sort of visual (either a video or an actual live presentation) on the importance of exercise and how it can avoid the most preventable and deadly diseases.  Education is vital to cognitive-behavioral approaches as it enables the person to really look at themselves and understand why change is necessary.  During the presentation, it may useful to explain to them that their loved ones that have had heart attacks or suffer from diabetes may have been able to prevent those things from regular exercise.  Hopefully this will hit home, give them something to relate to, and help them realize the importance of taking care of their bodies.  Similar to “community-wide campaigns” mentioned in The Task Force On Community Preventive Services (2002) article, advertising the exercise program throughout the school can also increase cognitive understanding and importance of the program.  From there, getting the children to make out contracts might be a good way to hold them accountable, and should be focused on attendance more than anything else.  As Gill and Williams (2008) mention, peak performance is not the goal of exercise, but instead maintenance of physical activity is.  Getting the children to take that first step is important, and hopefully the fun and engaging exercise will keep them coming back.  Some suggestions for activities could include: jump roping, roller-blading, swimming aerobics, swimming teams, running club, walking club, football, basketball, soccer, etc.  Things that are both fun to do as well as keep the children moving at all times.

The next step will come once the children show up to the first day of the program.  Based on the Transtheoretical Model presented by the Cancer Prevention Research Center (2010) as well as in Gill and Williams (2008) the children are probably in the contemplation stage as they are just now starting to think about changing their behaviors.  This is a very important stage as they can be easily turned off and regress back to the Precontemplation stage.  On the other hand if they enjoy the exercise they may move on to the Action stage, so it is very important to engage them in an activity that is both fun and challenging.  The Task Force on Community Preventive Services (2002) strongly recommends both social support interventions as well as individually-adapted health behaviors.  The children could be grouped into two or even four people.  I think it would be beneficial for there to be diversity in strengths and weaknesses between each person in the group so everyone is being pushed in a different aspect of exercise.  If you put four children who are all good at the same thing they may only focus on what they are good at.  Also each child should have individualized goals to focus on what needs the most work.  Some children may not enjoy competition, so they could focus more on individualized activities.  Others may benefit more from team games and competition so that could be part of their plan.  Whatever the children find enjoyable that still gets them engaged in physical activity is the main goal.  Moreover, the goals should not be focused on weight loss.  Focusing on weight loss implies that they are overweight.  Whether they are or not, this could create a variety of negative emotions.  The goal is not necessarily to lose weight, it is to become a more healthy and active person.  Finally, I feel it would be important to provide the children with constant feedback as well as positive reinforcement and praise.  If children are just expected to go and play, they might become bored.  If they can track their increased performance in some way, this may keep them coming back.  If the children have a dress code at school, one way to provided positive reinforcement could be to allow them to dress in jeans and a tee-shirt if their attendance and performance is adequate.  Giving them days off from exercise is not a form of positive reinforcement.

Conclusion:  Preventing childhood obesity through exercise has countless advantages and is something to be addressed immediately.  Physical inactivity is addressed above by creating an after-school program aimed at preventing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.  This plan takes important aspects from cognitive-behavioral approaches as well as the Transtheoritical model discussed both by the Cancer Prevention Research Center (2010) as well as in Gill and Williams (2008).  The plan discussed involves education on exercise, using contracts, social support groups, individualized behavior plans, as well as interactive and interesting activities to keep the children active and engaged.  The main goal of the program not to lose weight, but instead to get the children to take part in physical activity regularly.


Cancer Prevention Research (n.d.). Detailed overview of the transtheoretical model. Retrieved August 17, 2010 from

Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Task Force on Community Preventative Services. (2002). Recommendations to increase physical activity in communities. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 22 (4S). 67-72.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Personal Improvement to Fulfill Ego

What:  As we can probably all recall from middle-school and high-school, having all the students fully participate in physical activity is quite rare.  This appears to be a growing problem for physical educators as childhood obesity is dominating the news.  Growing up we may have viewed these children as, un-athletic, nerds, weird, or just plain lazy.  In order to truly understand why some children are fully involved in sports and exercise and why others are not it’s important to look at the motives behind effort and participation. 

So What:  Creating an achievement motivation profile for both Kate and Robin will help us quickly recognize the apparent differences between the two girls.  According to the case study, Kate is always eager to participate and chooses personally challenging tasks.  Kate tries hard, even when losing, and seems to enjoy physical activity even though she may not be as skilled as her peers.  Robin on the other hand does not seem to enjoy physical activity and tends to choose the easiest task possible.  Robin expects to fail and although she could “win” more (objective success) she does not apply herself. 

Right away it’s clear that Kate is task-oriented as she demonstrates an ability to learn and improve her individual skills, regardless of how well her peers are doing. Kate finds success not in if she is winning, but instead from her ability to learn, improve, and put forth effort. Because of Kate’s focus on individual progress and not objective success, she appears to have a relatively low level of ego-orientation.  Robin’s behavior is almost a polar opposite of Kate’s.  Robin’s task-orientation is undoubtedly low as she makes little to no effort to improve her individual skills.  On the other hand it appears that Robin may be ego-oriented and does not fully involve herself in competition for fear of losing.  Gill and Williams (2008) mention that people who are ego involved only perceive themselves as able when they perform better than others.  Robin appears to not enjoy any physical activities anymore which may be a result of a variety of things.  One possibility is that Robin may have been skilled and enjoyed objective success in the past, but over time she did not keep up with her peers increasing skill level because she had low task-orientation and never worked on improving individual skills.  Although not necessarily the case, this could explain why Robin no longer finds pleasure in competition or physical activity in general.  When constantly subjected to a negative stimuli, humans ten to adopt avoidance behaviors (Elliot, 2006).  This explains why children bullied skip school, or possibly why ego-oriented people who consistently lose in competition quit putting forth effort.  Over time Robin may have become more and more incompetent in her skills which affected the teams she was on negatively, possibly resulting in Robin developing performance avoidance behaviors to the point that she no longer applies herself in PE class.

Now What:  If the above scenario was accurate, I would attempt to increase Robin’s task orientation so her skills can develop to the point where she can fulfill her ego-interest.  I think in order for Robin to become involved in physical activity it would be vital for the PE teacher to remove objective evaluation (winning or losing) from the classroom altogether (at least for some time).  This is something that seems almost impossible because physical activity for most of us is centered around getting better in order to win in the future.  The belief behind this follows Veroff’s (1969) stages of achievement motivation (autonomous competence, social comparison, integrated achievement motivation.  In team games Robin does not apply herself like other students do.  The first thing to do would be to remove winning and losing from team games and create something for the students to do that will create autonomous competence.  Instead of just “playing basketball,” each student can create their own individual goal for the basketball game.  Robin’s goal could be something along the lines of making three shots from between 5 and 15 feet on offense, and forcing at least one turnover while on defense. If done for a reasonable amount of time, this goal, if nothing else, may motivate Robin to do more than half court shots and lay-ups, and hopefully improve her skill level enough so that she is competent enough to compete.  The next stage of the model is the social comparison stage, and it is here where Robin will be able to put her ego-oriented personality on display and compete with a peer.  This example may be a little too general and idealistic, but the point is that if Robin is indeed ego-oriented and not participating in physical activity, there is a good chance it is because she is afraid to lose.  One way to make her more competent in having her team win would be to increase her own individual competence.

Conclusion:  From the behaviors mentioned in the case study Kate is task-oriented while Robin may be ego-oriented. The reason Robin no longer finds physical activity fun is because she finds losing un-pleasurable and does not have the individual skill competence to change anything.  In order to increase Robin’s skill competence and decrease participation avoidance behaviors I suggested that Robin creates individual goals for each competition that focus on building individual skill and not objective success (winning).  Hopefully over time Robin will be more competent in her ability to play well resulting in more participation and enjoyment in physical activity.

Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.).Champaign,   IL: Human Kinetics.
Elliot, A. (2006). The hierarchical model of approach-avoidance motivation. Motivation and Emotion,30(2), 111.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Education and Deep Breathing to Control Emotional Irregularity

What:  Matt, a talented junior tennis player in my tennis camp, is displaying many emotional ups and downs during his matches, and they are inhibiting his overall potential.  The behaviors include getting upset at calls, his own personal errors, and even when he’s doing well he appears to be “on edge,” especially in big matches.  As many of us have seen portrayed in the media, and in real life, young athletes may be especially hard on themselves when they are expected to be exceptional.  It is crucial for Matt to overcome these emotional ups and downs in order for him to become a more competent and skilled tennis player and to avoid burnout and injury.

So What:  Gill and Williams (2008) discuss the importance of emotional control and managing ones stress in their textbook.  If Matt’s emotional ups and downs are not soon addressed his potential for a successful career could come to an abrupt end very soon. According to Gill and Williams (2008) physiological arousal and cognitive worry go hand in hand, and along with increased cognitive worry comes lower self-confidence.  Things associated with physiological arousal include: a focus on rapid breathing instead of a focus on performance, high anxiety in which unnecessary muscles and energy are used, and perceived stress which leads to poor coping behaviors. In Matt’s situation it is unclear whether his high physiological arousal causes his cognitive worry to increase, or if the cognitive worry causes his physiological arousal to increase.  What is important is that if one is decreased (physiological arousal), there is a good chance the other will decrease as well (cognitive worry).  If Matt is able to control his physiological arousal and his cognitive worry, this may lead to higher self-confidence, he will be less distracted on his arousal and more focused on his performance, and hopefully Matt will be able to play to his potential.  If Matt continues to display the behaviors previously mentioned, he will continue to have stress and the risk for injury will be increased, or burnout may occur; both of which may end his career prematurely. 

Now What:  Goodger, Gorely, Lavallee, and Harwood (2007) state that “it is typical for athletes experiencing burnout to be characterized by motivational loss shown as reduced intrinsic motivation or amotivation, a lack of enjoyment, possession of poor or ineffective coping skills, high perceived stress and anxiety…” (Goodger et al. p. 143).  Many of these characterizations of burnout appear to be displayed by Matt so as one of his coaches I need to do what I can to address these behaviors and emotions before they get the best of him. 
I would first start by educating Matt on his current situation and what his behaviors could result in.  It would be important not to be too hard on Matt and further frustrate or upset him, but to simply sit him down and explain to him the detrimental effects that stress and increased arousal has on athletes.  I would first teach Matt the importance of “emotional intelligence,” defined as “the ability to process emotion-laiden information competently and use it to guide cognitive activities such as problem solving and to focus energy on required behaviors” (Gill and Williams, p. 191).  If Matt understands the consequences of his increased arousal, according to step 2 of Smith’s Cognitive-Affective Stress Management Model, Matt will understand the rationale of controlling his emotions, thus making him more susceptible to accept and fully participate in training. 

Once Matt understands the benefits of being under control while on the court I would teach him the most basic form of stress management; breathing exercises.  If I believe that Matt begins his matches by getting to “psyched up” I may encourage him to take part in meditation prior to taking the court.  This would be a proactive way to settle Matt down physiologically.  A major part of meditation is breathing technique.  Breathing technique, according to Gill and Williams (2008), emphasizes slow, deep breathing and might be an effective way to initiate relaxation.  When Matt becomes angered about a call or error, it would be important for him to utilize breathing exercises to initiate relaxation and avoid increased physiological arousal.  If this is unsuccessful, I may teach Matt a progressive relaxation technique specific to tennis to help avoid tension in his muscles, reducing the risk of injury as well. 

If these simple techniques are ineffective in improving Matt’s emotions on the court, it may be time to implement a cognitive-behavioral stress management technique.  In order to do this, a clinical psychologist, who is both well trained and competent in his or her ability, should work with Matt.  The three main cognitive-behavioral stress management approaches, according to Gill and Williams (2008) are: Suinn’s Visuomotor Behavioral Rehearsal Technique, Smiths’ Cognitive-Affective Stress Management Model, and Emotinal Control for Anger and Aggression.  All three of these techniques have shown to be successful at some level to calm one’s physiological arousal and control aggressive emotions as well as stress.

Conclusion:  Both Gill and Williams (2008) and Goodger et al. (2007) discuss the danger that high physiological arousal, perceived anxiety and stress, poor coping skills, and cognitive worry can have on an athlete, especially in regards to burnout and injury.  If I were Matt’s coach at a tennis camp I would first educate him on the threat his behaviors and emotions are posing on his career.  Once he comes to realize the importance of maintaining his emotions I would teach him how to do simple meditation prior to matches, including deep breathing exercises to use before and during the match.  Whether these are effective or not, progressive relaxation techniques could be beneficial to help keep Matt’s muscles from experiencing excess tension.  If none of these techniques are successful, it may be time for a trained clinical psychologist to work with Matt in developing a cognitive-behavioral stress management technique to address his emotional irregularity.

Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign,   IL: Human Kinetics.

Goodger, K., Gorely, T., Lavalle, D., & Harwood, C. (2007). Burnout in sport: A systematic review. The Sport Psychologist, 21, 127-151.